We’ve written about the Singapore Airlines Premium Economy product before on our site, and it would be easy to reiterate the beautiful 38″ seat pitch, 13.3″ IFE touchscreen offering Panasonic Ex3 hardware and 1,500 on demand entertainment options, 8″ recline with seat-pan tilt, foot rest and calf support. Even the reading light, dedicated personal in-arm dining table and drinks holders or the two USB ports, (one for phone, one for tablet) would make a worthy mention.
However, during the grand reveal earlier today, we were able to see the seat, the amenities and the service promises in all their glory. Singapore have purposefully waited to launch their product, to allow the market to test the water for them, learn from the mistakes and successes in the cabin and deliver above and beyond what they now understand passengers look for in this niche but growing cabin concept.
The Premium Economy seat is by JPA Design, the same company that introduced the latest business class product to Singapore back in 2013, but it isn’t revolutionary. Even James Park, founder of the London based studio admits “We are using the very best, not the very latest materials in the seat design.” But is has set a high product standard that we feel many passengers may not consciously appreciate, but have a profound effect on them. There are stitching details and seat engineering elements that are so accurate and precise, even high-end car manufacturers would struggle to maintain.
“What will set this new product apart from the competition is the Singapore Airlines way of doing things” Singapore Airlines Executive Vice President Commercial, Mr Mak Swee Wah said on their key differentiator. That’s no light promise. The cabin will offer the popular ‘Book The Cook’ offering featuring Premium Economy dishes such as Seafood Thermidor, Rosemary Beef Brisket or Nasi Lemak with Fried Chicken, currently only available to Business and First Class travellers, but also, Ernest Rapeneau Brut Prestige Champagne on tap. Not just during boarding.
The cabin will also feature hard bulkhead partitions, unlike other Asian carriers that offer the Premium Economy product – helping give the customer that real sense of exclusivity. These partitions will either grow or shrink along with the cabin, after they are rolled out to the market, and Singapore Airlines are being proactively responsive to the demand for the new product. The element of flexibility is commercially a very sensible move, although for passengers that means there won’t be a dedicated washroom to the Premium Economy passenger, one small downside in a wealth of positives.
The other only noticeable downsides while trialling the seats were found in the position of the touchscreen controller, which lends itself to being accidentally activated by a leg brushing the control panel, and the small detail of the tray table interfering with the drinks tray in the armrest when being deployed. Neither of these are new problems, nor ones that actively need to be rethought, and have been most likely considered as a trade off for passenger space and convenience and cost effectiveness of the product.
The design and craftsmanship on show are phenomenal and will only really be evident when experienced in person, and whilst the first off the line, the new seats offer luxurious finishes, with a modern contemporary edge. Little was revealed about the new design (with its grey and orange finish) which is a departure from the more muted and luxurious tones found in the other cabins is part of a new brand direction, but Mr Mak Swee Wah did hint at a development of new products in the future: “We will be introducing a new First Class Suite in 2017 which will coincide with our new A380 deliveries.” The introduction of the vibrant orange, sits well with the carrier trying to appeal to a cost conscious younger audience, and acts as a clear differentiator between economy and premium seats.
The biggest game changer is found in the aisle seats (which accounts for 50% of the seats onboard) The moveable armrest, usually used for people with mobility issues to help them get in and out of the seat, has become a benefit for larger passengers who require more than the 18.5-19.5″ seat width as the lowered arm rest adds an additional 3″ to the seat base and can remain lowered for most of the flight.
With a three inch arm rest either side of each paired seat too, the shoulder width on offer is a very comfortable 25.5″ wide, more than some regional business classes.
What of the extras. We will get photos shortly, however passengers in the premium economy cabin will have their own limited edition print amenity kits, featuring dental kits and bright orange socks, an oversized and properly stuffed pillow with micro-fibre case, and thick thermal blankets to keep even the most arctic of passengers warm through the flight. As for audio, passengers will only have the very best, with the carrier opting to provide passengers with the very same noise cancelling headphones that business class passengers will enjoy.
One thing is for sure, that with the introduction of the product on the Sydney route followed by London, these new seats will be a huge success on the long haul and increasingly competitive Kangaroo route.
The Big Picture